Menstruation Dialogue; Missing Voices, Missed out Issues

Every year in May the world celebrates Menstrual Hygiene Day (MH DAY), underlining Menstruation as a basic but neglected biological process for a woman.

Menstruation Dialogue; Missing Voices, Missed out Issues is Goonj’s effort to prioritize and bring into spotlight voices of women left out and some crucial Issues of menstrual challenges, for any work with this vast majority of humanity. By recognizing and honoring some best practices addressing the multifaceted menstrual challenges women face, we hope more people and organizations will be motivated to bring more attention to this human issue..

Missing Voices and Missed out Issues

Being a woman, comes with a set of challenges.. and if one is disabled, tribal, migrant or homeless.. then the misery is worsened infinitely. The good news is that menstruation, a basic biological process women deal with every month, has, over the last few years been a subject of development sector attention and policy level changes.. The bad news is that the narrative has largely been product centric with movies and product makers, missing out on voices of a big community on the margins. There are also many Missed Aspects like the dignity of women, facing a culture of shame and silence from the society, waiting to be prioritized. 

Consider this… Parents of disabled girls consider having their daughter’s uterus medically removed, to avoid sanitation problems arising when the girl would menstruate and to avoid a possible pregnancy if the girl was sexually abused. One of the hardest things about being homeless, is being a woman.. While Shelter, hygiene, dignity are a far cry.. every month they face a crisis of deciding between a pad and food.. Being part of a larger tribal population struggling for basics, tribal women face the brunt of lack of nutrition, education, early child bearing and reproductive health complications. On the other hand migrant women we commonly see outside construction sites face many difficulties like lack of privacy and facilities to manage their menstruation, living in cramped, unhygienic surroundings, using unclean, poorly lit, shared toilets or forced to go for open defecation..

1.8 Crore disabled women, more than 5 Crore tribal women, 6.5 Crore migrant women, 20+ lakh sex worker women, just in India and much bigger numbers globally.. These voice must be heard.. Their menstrual challenges must come into the larger mapping of Menstrual Hygiene Management narrative.

One crucial underlined but Missed Out aspect is Women’s DIGNITY (Dignity means being worthy of honor and respect) Women routinely face indignity, shame and humiliation, subjected to discriminatory practices, considered impure and untouchable. There’s little attention to what happens to the confidence, body awareness, sense of worth of countless women aged 12 to 50, subjected to these indignities every month.  

The Big Miss even within the menstrual product centric discussions, is that Cloth Pads are summarily rejected, even though cloth is a viable option, as its biodegradable, reusable, affordable, accessible to millions of women. All it needs, just like market products, is awareness about how to hygienically use and dispose.

The Big Miss has also been deliberation on the dangers of plastic based non biodegradable menstrual products going to women in rural India which has comparatively less infrastructure, sanitation, disposal and waste management facilities.